The attempted theft of copper wire from several streetlights along Deschutes Parkway this week was a reminder that higher commodity prices continue to spur thieves interest in acquiring copper and other metals illegally.
About 6:30 a.m. Monday, ground crews with the state Department of Enterprise Services noticed that 10 streetlights, between Marathon Park and Tumwater, had gone dark, spokesman Jim Erskine said.
Although none of the lights copper wiring was stolen, the wiring was damaged as thieves attempted to pull it out, he said. The result is that the state agency will replace about 2,500 feet of wiring at a cost of $5,000. The work is expected to be complete Wednesday, Erskine said.
Spokesman Bob Calkins of the Washington State Patrol, the law enforcement agency handling the investigation, said so far there are no real leads in the case.
This isnt the first time The Olympian has reported on metal thefts.
Here are some examples:
-In July 2012, two copper cherubs -- childlike figures -- were removed for safekeeping from a fountain in front of the former Olympia brewery by property listing agent Troy Dana. Dana was concerned they might be stolen because they were valued at about $500, according to price-per-pound copper prices at the time.
-In June 2011, thieves stole 34 cast-iron tree grates, costing the City of Olympia about $18,000. Another half-dozen stormwater drainage grates and frames also were missing at the time. They cost $300 each to replace.
-In June 2006 -- considered a peak year for commodity prices -- the Thurston County Sheriffs Office reported 10 copper thefts in one month, including at a new residential development, a Puget Sound Energy substation and at other unfinished homes.
Spokesman Calkins said the typical profile of someone trying to steal copper is a person addicted to methamphetamine who is looking to steal something quickly and make a quick profit on it.
Once the copper is stolen, the thief might try to recycle the metal at a recycler like South Sound Steel & Recycling in Tumwater, but Tom Grywusiewicz, a buyer for the business, said they keep their eyes open and ask a lot of questions when they suspect someone has stolen the metal.
Theres also a state law on the books since 2007 that requires vehicle identification for sellers, and the business can hold a check for 10 days, he said.
South Sound Steel & Recycling has turned people away before, Grywusiewicz said.
If we think it might be stolen, we dont want to take a chance because we not only lose the metal but the money we paid for it, he said.
Copper currently is valued at about $2.70 per pound, he said, which is down from previous highs in 2006 and 2007, but is much higher than its historical trading range of $1.20 to $1.40 per pound.
Calkins said there is current proposed legislation -- HB 1552 -- that addresses metal theft, and includes the creation of a statewide, electronic no-buy list database.
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 email@example.com theolympian.com/bizblog